For many SMEs, creating an effective email marketing campaign represents a potential force multiplier for their existing online marketing efforts. Tom McSherry explains the benefits of developing an email marketing system, and the fundamentals of creating and optimising an automated email funnel.
In many local markets, few businesses are leveraging the power of opt-in email lists. This means there is room to develop an advantage by simply implementing basic strategies that have been tried and true amongst Internet marketing circles for years.
First, let me highlight the benefits of developing an email marketing system, and then explain the fundamentals of creating and optimising a funnel.
Why build an Email Marketing Funnel?
There are five key reasons you should be implementing email marketing as part of your digital strategy.
- Automation meets relationship-based selling. We all know that the key to successful long term sales growth is the ability to build and develop relationships – with customers, potential customers and partners alike. Email marketing simply allows you to take the principles of relationship-based selling and leverage them using automated software.
- Better conversion rates. An opt-in based, permission marketing email list allows you to continuously follow up with prospects who are interested in your business, but may not be ready to buy right now. Consider this; of the leads you talk to, how many are ready to buy straight away? The bigger the purchase, the longer the time frame tends to be between first contact and closed deal. With email marketing, you’re able to close a much higher percentage of the leads you deal with simply by making sure you stay on their radar over a longer time frame, so that when they’re ready to buy, you’re still right in front of them and they’re pre-sold on your offerings.
- Lower cost of acquisition. Of course, by converting more of the leads you’re already getting, you’re also effectively reducing the average cost of new customer acquisition.
- Higher lifetime customer value. By maintaining an email list to which you continually deliver value over time, you can boost recurring purchases and more easily introduce new service offerings to existing and past customers.
- More word of mouth. Remember, when you send an email to your list, there’s potential not just to convert your subscribers into customers. If you continually offer great free value to your list, even those subscribers who don’t spend money with you themselves will begin to recommend you to friends and colleagues who are in the market for your services.
What does an Email Marketing Funnel look like?
Here’s the basic breakdown of the steps in a typical email funnel:
- A visitor to your site will be asked to opt in to your email list. Usually you will offer something for free in exchange for their contact info, such as a free video training or PDF report. This is known as a ‘lead magnet.’
- The visitor opts in and their details are stored in your email marketing software. They will receive a confirmation email, and once they confirm, you’ll be able to email to them along with the rest of your list.
- You can set up an autoresponder series of emails to go out to new subscribers. You can even use this as your lead magnet – for example, by offering a free 7-day email course related to your business. This effectively allows you to “set and forget” automated follow-up for months into the future.
- You can also schedule broadcasts to go out to your list at any time – this function is typically used for email newsletters, sent out weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.
- You can segment your list into multiple new lists – eg, buyers and prospects, people who did or didn’t take up a discount offer, etc. This lets you target your message even further based on the behaviour of different people on your list.
In a typical direct sales strategy, you’re focused on converting visitors at step one – and you can still do that in combination with your long term email strategy. The point is to convert every lead that is ready to be converted now, and also convert those who will be ready to convert a week, a month or six months from now.
Tips for creating an effective lead magnet
One of the key driving factors of your opt-in rate is your lead magnet – the free offer of value you make to persuade visitors to become subscribers.
The big questions to ask yourself when developing a lead magnet are:
- What are the biggest problems your prospects face that you can provide relief from?
- How can you provide something for free in a digital format that will give them tangible evidence that your paid offers can help them?
This should not be a bait-and-switch to get the email address. It’s a chance to show that new ideal prospect, via the value of your free opt-in offer, that you can produce tangible improvements for them – no hyperbolic direct-marketing advertising claims can beat that kind of proof and credibility.
Which email marketing software should you use?
There’s a smorgasbord of choice available when it comes to email marketing software, with vastly differing levels of complexity. The two I’d recommend for businesses testing the water are:
- MailChimp – a basic option you can get started with for free.
- Aweber – a reliable service with high delivery rates, starting from USD$19 per month.
- If you want to go a little more advanced, InfusionSoft (from USD$199 per month) is widely recognised as being one of the most comprehensive email marketing platforms.
The Bottom Line: offer value now, convert more later
Remember: when it comes to the content you send to your list, always lead with value. Your list is there to let you build relationships over time, and you won’t achieve that with hard-sell pitches in every email. The content you send out should be about 80% free value, 20% pitch.
Tom McSherry is the founder of Premium SEO NZ. He helps New Zealand companies improve their Google rankings and drive more online sales via persuasive copywriting, smart design and conversion rate optimisation. Visit www.premiumseo.co.nz Email Tom at [email protected] or connect on LinkedIn: https://nz.linkedin.com/in/tom-mcsherry